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Marzo-abril de 2020, vol. 29, núm. 2

Retweeting Covid-19 disability issues: Risks, support and outrage

Mike Thelwall; Jonathan M. Levitt

This article is available in open access

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly uneven impacts on sectors of society. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to it and so it is important to understand both the disability perspective and the role of social media. This information may help to reduce the risk from the disease. In response, this article uses thematic analysis to investigate 59 disability-related tweets from March 10 to April 4, 2020 that were retweeted at least 500 times, with a quarter of a million retweets altogether. This approach generates quick insights into widely resonating disability-related issues. The results suggest the value of Twitter for disseminating information about the risk, offers or requests for support, the ability of many people with disabilities to adjust to the changes well, and information about individuals with the disease. In addition, there was outrage at suggestions that the disease was less serious because young people without disabilities were relatively low risk, and that people with disabilities might be denied equal access to medical treatment. As one tweet pointed out, people in less vulnerable categories should not be told on Twitter or elsewhere that the disease is less relevant to them because their actions can impact others through social spreading.

Keywords: Covid-19; Coronavirus; Disability; Twitter; Social media; Social networks; Retweeting; People with disabilities; Disabled people; Health information; Pandemics; Thematic analysis.